Meet the people behind O2: Alyson Edmunds
A series that looks at the people behind the technologies we support across Britain.
At O2 we employee thousands of talented individuals to support our diverse customer base. From front line staff working in store with the latest mobiles, accessories and consumer products, to technical specialists who can design your integrated mobile, Wifi and fixed networks, as well as identify the right managed services and digital solutions for your organisation. At O2 we believe that the solutions we provide are only as good as the people that help you make the most of them.
Alyson Edmunds, Head of Digital Innovation – Enterprise
Alyson is a mum, a friend to tech start-ups across Britain, and in particular a supporter of encouraging women in tech. She loves watching as technology plays an ever increasing role in everyone’s business and personal lives, but is more excited about being involved in making new possibilities and solutions a reality. It’s a clear reason why she is so passionate about working with start-up communities, helping them realise the challenges that both public and private organisations, and the importance of factoring in the human factor to ensure success.
We talk to Alyson about her role in O2, what motivates her, and what she expects to see from a future that we all have a chance to mould.
What do you do at O2?
I am Head of Digital Innovation in the Enterprise team at O2, which means I get to see, talk about and play with lots of new business focused technology. Enviable as it sounds, my role is to identify where and how new technologies translate into meaningful and effective business solutions for our customers, because without them that’s all it is: new shiny tech.
How did you end up doing what you do, and why O2?
I joined the industry back in the days when all you could do on a mobile phone was make a phone call or send a text. One day a colleague showed me a brand new service called WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) which was just about to be launched in the UK. It was the first time I had ever received content (data) digitally, albeit on the tiny black and white screen on my Nokia 7110.
Despite its limitations, I was hooked from that moment onwards. It had such an impact on me that I can even remember exactly where I was, and what the content was about – it was a basic summary of BBC News headlines. From there, I was involved in the launch of the first Blackberry device, the first One XDA and the first iPhone, and I recognised from the start that data would become the new currency.
What gets you energised in the morning for the day ahead?
I love walking and really enjoy yomping in the Yorkshire dales at weekends because I find it’s absolutely the best way to clear my head. I also enjoy skiing although I could be a lot more confident on the red runs. There are some awesome ski apps that I use, such as SkiTrack & SkiFit.
What’s been your proudest achievement so far in your career?
Winning a WeAreTechWomen’s TechWomen100 Award in 2018.
My family were proud of me winning the award as well, which was just as important to me. This year I have vowed to put the award to good use and support young people to give them the confidence and skills to enter the workplace.
Personally. I have registered as a volunteer with the ‘Young Enterprise’ charity, which supports local kids to take the ’tenner challenge’ and gives each child £10 of start-up capital to get an enterprise off the ground, and have one month to make as much impact and profit as they’re able. I’d like to think I make an impact with the kids and offer sound advice they can use for any entrepreneurial endeavour they undertake in the future.
What’s the one small thing in life that always makes you smile?
It has to be my two sons, both now in their twenties, who decided to take technical apprenticeships rather than go to university. For them it was absolutely the right decision, and I am very proud of them.
How do you see your role evolving in the future?
It’s a sorry statistic that Women in Tech report that only 17% of employees in technology in the UK are women. This year I plan to work with women to give them more confidence to prepare for and join this fantastic industry. O2’s Women’s Network are championing STEM and for the past few years I have been mentoring girls studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and am keen to develop this support further as its very rewarding.
I’m excited to be part of the 5G team at O2, because it has the potential to define smart cities, make industry connected and revolutionise healthcare.
How do you switch off and wind-down?
My partner has just bought a camper van, so look out for us in a blue VW in a town near you.
What does a healthy relationship with technology look like for you?
When my children were teenagers each went through an unhealthy stage of not being able to function without a screen in front of them, but then something clicked. They started talking and communicating again – maybe that’s because kids grow out of the ‘Kevin stage’ eventually?
I really can’t imagine not being able to access information wherever or whenever I need to. I find podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to keep up to date with new ideas and changing technology whilst I am on the move. I’m not perfect but I’d say I have a fairly healthy relationship with technology.
How long would you survive a full digital detox for?
I don’t know. I’ve never tried. I’ll give it a go and let you know.
What’s the one gig or show that changed your life?
Last year I saw a private and intimate gig at The O2 with Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics. It was part of the after-event entertainment we provided the customers who attended our inaugural Blue Door Conference as part of O2 Live. Definitely the best gig I’ve ever seen as everyone had front row seats. It was a truly unique experience, and one that will take a lot of beating.
What are you most excited about that the future will bring?
I’m excited to see how the world of work will change with AI – I know that a lot of people fear robots will cause job losses and change workplaces fundamentally, but I honestly believe that they will also create the need for all sort of jobs and roles that we haven’t even considered yet. That’s really exciting!